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5 important reasons for continuous professional development in medicine

1.      Increase knowledge

Medicine is ever evolving with several developments leading to its improvement. These may be incremental improvements such as the gradual development of antibiotics through the generations or a complete paradigm shift in understanding resulting in a drastically improved method of treatment such as the treatment of peptic ulcers with antibiotics and acid suppression instead of surgery. It is not static like some other disciplines that may not see significant changes with time. Medicine can change with the unassuming discovery of a novel protein or metabolic process, and much of the time, this may even be by accident. The serendipitous nature of these discoveries make medicine an exciting and everchanging scientific landscape requiring even the most studious scholar to be constantly reading for fear of falling behind the ever-expanding knowledge.

It is essential to always keep abreast of the latest developments to avoid being too far behind in the latest advancements and this has been clearly documented by outbreaks such as the novel coronavirus whose treatment and prevention has undergone massive changes and reviews within a short space of time.

Medical school is structured in such a way that it exposes you to as many conditions as possible to allow you to expand your knowledge through personal study and active participation in learning activities. It does not seek to provide the most minute detail of a disorder but relies on the inquisitive nature of the learner to fill in the gaps left by the educator. It is a tall ask for the medical student, but it is not something that is necessarily accomplished within a short period of time. Hence, medicine is considered as a science in which there is continual need to study, and study hard to provide the best care possible for one’s patients.

Several countries have introduced continuous professional development programs and points based systems that aim to keep track of a person’s annual educational activities that keeps abreast of current medicine and other medically related topics. The so called Continuous Medical Education (CME) is one of those interventions that ensures medical practitioners are constantly being updated on medically relevant subjects.

2.      Add non-essential and essentials skills

Medicine could be seen as more of an art than a science due to its formulaic and somewhat theatrical nature of classically coming up with a diagnosis, based on the the history and the examination, time tested tools in the standard practice of medicine. With the development of investigations and the increasing shift toward evidence-based medicine, it has resulted in the art relying less on anecdotal information passed on from one doctor to another or archaic practices inherited from forebearers and has dogmatized these same actors into a rabid call for sufficient evidence to support a prevailing practice. This has evidently led to better patient care albeit with notable downsides.

The practice of taking a history and performing a physical examination are still important to the practice of medicine, but the field has grown and introduced the doctor to a variety of clinical and non-clinical skills that may help in improving the practice of medicine directly and indirectly.

Some of these include brushing up on your basic sciences such as medical microbiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, or physiology. Others include improving your ICT knowledge such as becoming more savvy in word or Excel. Something having an even more direct impact on your productivity that is not necessarily a medical skill is improving your knowledge of electronic medical and health records.

3.      Mandatory for renewing registration

In several countries, it has become mandatory for you to prove that you have attended or conducted some form of continuous medical education to renew your registration and certificate to practice. This may be a conference you attended, an abstract or paper you wrote, a presentation you did, a grand round you attended or even a skills training you took part in.

Other ways in which you can earn CPD points is by attending webinars, online and offline courses, enrolling in an academic program or even developing a new treatment or making a new discovery that you document. These add up towards your annual score with the aim of reaching or surpassing the minimum learning objectives as set out by your governing body. Too low a score may cause you to lose you license to practice so it is very important to attend learning opportunities where possible and document them.

It is important as there is always new knowledge out there for you to learn with disease patterns and prescribing trends changing all the time.

4.      Improve your CV and resume

A CV or resume is a professional document that describes your academic and professional career. A good CV or resume can be the difference between getting a good job and getting a great job. By adding all the educational activities that you have attended, conducted, or attended, it will enhance you CV and ultimately put you above that of your closest rival especially if the experiences added are extensive. For example, a CV with a Basic Life Support certification will look less attractive than one with both Basic Life Support and Advance Cardiothoracic Life Support. So, it is very important for you to include as many CPD activities as you can to make you resume or CV stand out.

5.      Refresh your memory

Medical school is a grueling academic pursuit. At the end of it you are expected to know about every metabolic process common and obscure diseases and the entire human body from head to toe. However, application of these is limited. In practice, you will only utilize some of the information that was crammed into you over the duration of your medical education. So it actually helps to go through things you learned earlier from time to time. This can be simple revision to enrolling in an entire course to refresh your memory. Learning never ends, and relearning is a good way of making sure you do not forget the most important things. Some goo resources for revision include textbooks, lecture notes, websites and online courses.

One of my favorite online learning platforms that I use to keep myself up to date and current is FutureLearn. FutureLearn is an online platform that provides numerous short courses that can be taken to improve your knowledge in a number of areas. It not only has medically related courses but also non-medical. Several courses are in the arts, engineering and my personal favorite, computer science. These courses are offered by international renowned universities and the courses can also be used to gain credit towards a degree in some cases. At the end of successful completion of a course, you will be provided with a certificate although a fee may be attached to it. I personally like to review a course then choose the ones that I feel needs a certificate at the end of it.